NATURE’S SKIN REMEDY
Tea tree oil is nature’s gift for many skin ailments, but its benefits don’t end there. Learn why this essential oil deserves a permanent spot in your medicine cabinet
Also known as melaleuca oil, tea tree oil is an essential oil that’s distilled from the boiled leaves of the Australian tea tree. Thanks to its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is a valued natural remedy for the treatment of bacterial and fungal skin conditions. Used as a traditional form of medicine for centuries, native Australians would crush tea tree leaves to extract the oil, which is then inhaled to treat coughs and colds, or applied topically for skin healing.
Here are five essential uses for this powerful healing oil:
One of the top uses for tea tree oil is as an acne treatment. Tea tree oil has the potential to lower skin bacterial levels, thereby reducing inflammation and targeting breakouts. According to Australian researchers, a five percent solution of tea tree oil works just as effectively as benzoyl peroxide (the top drugstore remedy).
HOW TO USE: Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil with 20 to 40 drops of witch hazel, and apply to troubled spots once or twice a day, using a cotton swab. While this solution is gentler than benzoyl peroxide, be careful not to overuse it as tea tree oil can dry out your skin and trigger your body to produce more oil, making your acne worse.
Cold sores, or “fever blisters”, are inflamed open sores around the mouth that are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Tea tree oil has antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties which have been found to be potent against HSV.
HOW TO USE: Dab a single drop of tea tree oil directly onto the sore. If you find it too strong, dilute it with a gentler carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. Use no more than twice a day to prevent skin irritation. Avoid getting any of it into your mouth as tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed.
TREAT ATHLETE’S FOOT
Known medically as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection on the feet that often spreads to the toenails and hands. The condition can be quite painful with symptoms like skin peeling, cracking, and blistering. Studies suggest that the antifungal properties of tea tree oil make it an effective alternative treatment for relieving the symptoms of athlete’s foot, such as burning, itching, and inflammation.
HOW TO USE: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of witch hazel, and apply directly to the affected areas thrice a day, using a cotton swab. Use sparingly the first time and stop further application if a rash develops.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that’s characterised by outbreaks of itchy and scaly skin. Although there is no known cure for it, tea tree oil, with its antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory benefits, can offer relief from the discomforts it brings – and may even help to speed up its healing process.
HOW TO USE: To provide relief for psoriasis flare-ups, combine 10 to 15 drops of tea tree oil with two tablespoons of melted coconut oil. Apply this mixture to the affected area twice to three times per day, as required.
Dead skin cells and chemicals contribute to the formation of dandruff (white flakes of dead skin that fall from the scalp). While the condition isn’t dangerous, it can be embarrassing and annoying. In a controlled study, researchers found that the group of participants who used a shampoo containing tea tree oil had a 40 percent improvement in dandruff. The same group also reported significant improvements in the itchiness and greasiness of their scalp.
HOW TO USE: For the reduction of dandruff, add a few drops of tea tree oil to a dollop of shampoo the next time you wash your hair.